The Magen Am Lone Soldier Veterans Program

Serving as a ‘lone soldier’ in the Israel Defense Forces is not easy. Leaving your family and friends to move to an unfamiliar land to enlist in the military. You are left to figure out the madness of Israeli bureaucracy on your own. Many ‘lone soldiers’ don’t speak or understand Hebrew at a proficient level. Where do I live? How am I going to pay for rent and food? Will I have any friends or support system outside the military?

There are many great organizations like Garin Tzabar, The Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center, Chayal el Chayal, and others who do tremendous work to try and ease the burden just a little.  However, make no mistake about it – being a ‘lone soldier’ is infinitely more difficult than being a native soldier, and we haven’t even gotten into the hardships and sacrifice that each and every soldier makes.

Those in uniform put their lives on the line each and every day to protect Israel and her citizens. With all that being said, every year thousands of young Jews leave the comforts of their own home to make the move to Israel and willingly accept each and every challenge thrown their way. They do this because the believe and understand that defending Israel and protecting Jewish life is most important. They understand that it won’t happen by itself, and they feel the responsibility to be part of the Jewish warrior class.

Many ‘lone soldiers’ finish their military service and return to their country of origin. The reasons for that are an entirely different topic, but this is the reality. This is the route I took after the completion of my IDF service in 2015. I returned to my hometown of Cincinnati, and it was then that I felt the most like a ‘lone soldier’. I was surrounded by people that could not relate to a single one of my military experiences. One day I had the awesome responsibility of protecting Jewish life, and the next day I had no responsibility at all. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next in life.  I had no direction or guidance. I was re-entering a new world that somehow felt more unfamiliar than the one I had left. I needed help, but I didn’t even know where to begin.

I spent many months spiraling down a destructive path. I lost my sense of purpose, and I relied on unhealthy outlets to help me feel better. There were nights when I wasn’t sure if I would make it to see the next morning’s sunrise. It got that bad.

These experiences are not mine alone. These are some of the experiences of many of our returning ‘lone soldier’ veterans. Thankfully I was provided an opportunity to once again impact Jewish life, through training others and speaking about my military experiences. This opportunity helped me get back on the right track. Sadly this is not the case for everyone, as we have seen an increase in drug overdoses and suicides from within our veteran community. Enough is enough.

Our IDF ‘lone soldier’ veterans are the most capable among us. They don’t need any handouts. However, we can be doing a much better job providing some guidance and direction. We can be doing a better job helping them re-integrate back into our communities. They have sacrificed so much on behalf of our people, it is the very least we do can.

This is motivation behind the creation of the Magen Am Lone Soldier Veterans Program. The mission of the program is to provide a “soft landing” for our returning IDF ‘lone soldier’ veterans. To help provide them with the skills, tools, and resources needed to create a foundation of success for the rest of their lives. This will include:

  • Paid for living expenses
  • Mental health counseling
  • Life & business coaching/mentoring
  • Education/Career development
  • Networking opportunities and more

At the very same time, our IDF veterans will be able to continue their sworn mission to protect and defend Jewish life – only now in the United States. The veterans will continue their training with Magen Am to meet the specific security needs of each community. As the threats and attacks continue to rise here in the United States, our soldiers can be a vital resource for our community. Our IDF ‘lone soldier’ veterans are battle tested and have the real-world skills and experiences to be that first line of defense from within our community. They will protect Jewish schools, synagogues, businesses, events, and residential neighborhoods.

Through the Magen Am Lone Soldier Veterans Program, our veterans will be provided with:

  • High level training to meet the security needs of each community
  • Equipment, uniforms, and licensing for security jobs
  • Job placement
  • Career advancement opportunities
We need your partnership to help make the launch of this most important program a success! Every dollar raised will go directly towards protecting the Jewish community and towards ensuring a successful future for our IDF ‘lone soldier’ veteran heroes!

We can help our IDF veterans create a foundation of success for the rest of their lives, while they help secure our Jewish community. Together we will ensure a bright future for the entire Jewish people!

For more information: https://magenamusa.org/magen-am-lone-soldier-program/

Contact: Leibel@Magenamusa.org

About the Author
At the age of nineteen, Leibel Mangel left his home and family in Cincinnati, Ohio to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces as a lone soldier. As the son of a Rabbi and the grandson of one of the youngest survivors of Auschwitz - serving in the IDF was not a matter of if, but rather when. Leibel served as a machine gunner in the Kfir Brigade, where he took part in numerous high profile anti-terror operations including the tragic discovery of the bodies of Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrah who were kidnapped from Gush Etzion in 2014. Leibel has used his story and experiences to continue his service by fighting for Israel in both mainstream and social media and in cities throughout the country. Leibel is also the recipient of a 2017 Jewish People's Choice Award and 2019 Hometown Hero Award.
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